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Alberta Premier Peter Lougheed, left, confers with Energy Minister Donald Macdonald and Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau before the start of the second day of the first ministers' conference in 1975 to discuss oil and natural gas prices. (The Canadian Press)
Alberta Premier Peter Lougheed, left, confers with Energy Minister Donald Macdonald and Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau before the start of the second day of the first ministers' conference in 1975 to discuss oil and natural gas prices. (The Canadian Press)

Remembering Lougheed: Chrétien, Mulroney and Manning among peers to pay tribute Add to ...

Jean Chrétien, prime minister of Canada, 1993-2003

We didn’t agree on issues, but it was never anything personal. We were representing different points of view and different jurisdictions.

The province of Alberta had a great servant in him. He defended their interests and he made Alberta a more modern society. It was an agricultural society when he defeated the Socreds in 1971 and he moved the province into a modern age. Of course, you know that my family on my mother’s side has been in Alberta since 1907. So we had this thing in common which is not known by a lot of people, but he knew that.

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He was part of what we call the Group of Eight [in the constitutional negotiations] and it was going nowhere. The goals that he had were different from the separatist government of Quebec, and eventually he saw that Canadians wanted to have the patriation of the constitution and a Charter of Rights and he was in agreement with that.

He himself was knowledgeable because the first piece of legislation he had passed as premier of Alberta was a charter of rights for the province. But we wanted to have a national one. You could make a deal with him in the interests of the nation and of Alberta, of course. He was a very strong man and a person of quality.

William Thorsell, Alberta-born journalist and former director of the Royal Ontario Museum

One of the most important things Peter Lougheed did for Alberta was to stay “home.” As early as 1975, and then again in 1982, he was urged by many insiders to run for the federal Progressive Conservative Party leadership, and might well have won in both cases over “Joe Who” in 1976, and Brian Mulroney in 1983.

Had he done so, he would have confirmed the view in Alberta that the emerging province was dispensable in some way – that there wasn’t quite enough of Canada to define a Canadian politician there. Peter Lougheed, by insisting on his primary definition as a Canadian in staying home, and by playing decisive roles in national affairs from Edmonton, made it fully Canadian to be an Albertan and Westerner at a time of great national trial.

Brian Mulroney, prime minister of Canada, 1984-1993

Peter’s contribution to his province and our country is second to none in our lifetime. In four terms in office from 1971-85, Peter built the modern Alberta: schools, universities, hospitals, highways and whole communities. He always defended Alberta’s interests brilliantly around the federal-provincial table. At the same time, he would be the first to say, as he did at his tribute dinner in Calgary in June this year: “We were Canadians first.”

Peter was very supportive of me in my leadership campaign and in government. His advice in those early years and throughout his retirement was always constructive and, yes, he always did put Canada first. He also built a political dynasty that endures to this day. Under the leadership of Alison Redford, the Alberta PCs won their 12th consecutive election last spring. The torch has truly been passed.

Ian Tyson, singer

I have been in Alberta for 35 years now and his influence preceded that. I did not know him personally, but he was prescient about where the culture and the Alberta economy was headed. I think he was a nationalist. I admired his image, but I was not conversant with all his game plans. I think he was a nationalist; that’s my impression. He stayed current and he was a very intelligent guy. I think he listened to my music.

Marc Lalonde, Trudeau-era cabinet minister

He was a formidable adversary [in the negotiations about the National Energy Program]. He was a guy who had been a good football player at university, so he was playing just as tough a game in politics. But he was a man of conviction.

I think he was fortunate to come into office at a time when the price of oil increased significantly. Compared to the other premiers. he was in a very privileged position, but he didn’t screw it up. He took steps [in creating the Heritage Fund] to make sure that the money would not be squandered. I had a lot of respect for him. He played like a pro. You just had to be as tough as he was and be ready to face the music and the consequences and try to work things out.

I met him on a number of occasions after we left politics and we always had good personal relationships. He told a friend of mine: “I have always been a Canadian first, an Albertan second and a Progressive Conservative third. A lot of people in my party do not seem to recognize this.”

David Peterson, Ontario premier, 1985-1990

I overlapped with him and Renè Lèvesque and went to the last federal/provincial meetings that those guys attended. They were the big boys of Confederation and I was the new kid. Peter Lougheed grabbed me and said, “Come, we’ll have lunch.” By the end of that lunch we were fast friends. He said, “I’m leaving, you are here, here’s the lay of the land.”

He went down the list, premier by premier, blow by blow, telling me here are the issues, here’s who you can trust, here’s who you can’t trust. This was a totally non-partisan thing. He gave me years of knowledge and institutional memory.

He could be a tough guy but he wasn’t mean-spirited. When I was in my own round of unity issues [Meech Lake], I would talk to him and say, “What do you think?” and phone him for honest advice or even a hug if I needed it. He had all his values straight and he made a great success of his life in politics and post-politics.

Bob Rae, Ontario premier, 1990-1995, and interim leader of the Liberal Party

I came to know him as an MP when the Constitution was being discussed. As time has gone on, people have realized that he has had a great sense of the country as well as a great sense of his own province. Because of the argument about the National Energy Policy, he was stereotyped as a defender of Alberta, which of course he was, but he had a much broader perspective. He knew the country very well from one coast to another, and he was a person of great generosity of spirit.

The last time I saw him was at Allan Blakeney’s funeral. He spoke very movingly and it reinforced my sense that Peter was a unique figure in the life of the country. He was a nation builder and a constructive, positive person and we need more people like him today and tomorrow.

Preston Manning, President and CEO, Manning Centre for Building Democracy

Albertans mourn the passing of one of Canada’s most accomplished public figures, Peter Lougheed – a man who moved during his own lifetime beyond the status of politician to that of statesman. Our mourning includes expressing our deepest sympathies to Jeanne Lougheed and the Lougheed family, with profound gratitude to them for sharing the life of a husband, father, and grandfather with a province and a country.

At the same time, we remember and celebrate Peter Lougheed’s accomplishments and legacy. His strengthening of the Alberta economy, especially the energy sector; his strengthening of our quality of life,  through public investments in everything from the Alberta Heritage Foundation for Medical Research to the massive recreational playground of Kananaskis Country; and his vigorous affirmation of provincial rights and responsibilities with respect to the ownership and management of natural resources.

But what is it that truly distinguishes the statesman, which Peter Lougheed became, from the run-of-the-mill politician? It is the statesman’s willingness and ability to foresee and prepare for the future, while still successfully managing the present.

It was Peter Lougheed who, looking ahead, personally advanced the concept that Alberta should systematically save a portion of its non-renewable resource revenue and invest it is such a way as to provide a growing income stream for future Albertans. He then embodied this concept in the legal and administrative architecture of the Alberta Heritage Savings Trust Fund.

The fact that Premier Lougheed’s current successors have largely abandoned the concept in practice – increasingly using “savings” from non-renewable resource revenue to cover deficits created by over-spending – should in no way detract from the wisdom and farsightedness of the original idea.

Ironically, Peter Lougheed’s greatest act of statesmanship might yet prove to lie in the constitutional arena – an arena into which he was dragged reluctantly by the initiatives of the Trudeau administration.

It was Peter Lougheed who appreciated more than most that the Trudeau-initiated Constitution Act of 1982, with its Charter of Rights and Freedoms, embodied assumptions about the nature and priorities of the country which might not stand the test of time.  For example, its excessive preoccupation with language rights – more subsections on official languages and minority language rights than on all other rights combined. Its failure to entrench economic rights or indeed to even recognize that a constitution is the framework for an economy as well as a polity. Its assumption that aboriginal self-development would be enhanced by guaranteeing treaty rights – the legal underpinnings of the failed reserve system. Its assumption that equalization payments would somehow insure reasonably comparable levels of public services across the country regardless of how the recipient provinces managed or mismanaged their fiscal houses.

Thus it was Peter Lougheed, again looking ahead, who insisted that the Constitution Act of 1982 include the so-called “notwithstanding clause” which enables Parliament or a legislature to declare that a legislative provision may operate “notwithstanding” key provisions of the Charter. It is this provision, while of limited application and not as yet exercised extensively or fully, which may well prevent our constitution from becoming a straight jacket as the demographics, values, and priorities of the country shift from those of the Canada of the 1980s.

Alberta and Canada have lost a statesman, but the fruits of his foresight live on in Alberta and in Canada’s constitution.

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